BANGKOK – Well it’s official, after a lot of political wrangling Thailand’s military stacked senate and the lower house have elected Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha as Prime Minister, who will lead a coalition government led by the Palang Pracharath Party.
The combined members of the House of Representatives and Senate cast 500 votes for Gen Prayut, well ahead of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s 244 and enough to elect the former junta leader as the 29th prime minister of Thailand. Mr Thanathorn was prevented from voting because his MP duties were suspended over an alleged media shareholding, and a Future Forward MP was ill.
The result was widely expected as the winning candidate needed at least 376 votes of the total 750 votes of the House and Senate — including 250 senators handpicked by the National Council for Peace and Order led by Gen Prayut, a stipulation of the 2017 constitution that many called an interference in the democratic process.
Mr Thanathorn, who leads the Future Forward Party (FFP), represented the anti-regime camp led by the Pheu Thai Party. Earlier on Wednesday, he called for change during a press conference held outside the TOT auditorium to outline his vision.
FFP had planned to propose that both candidates share their visions before the joint session, but later scrapped the call in order to shorten the joint session.
Gen Prayut was working at Government House and remained tight lipped about the vote when questioned by the press before the parliamentary meeting convened.
The morning session was partly overshadowed by the announcement of Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva that he was resigning as a party MP over his party’s endorsement of Gen Prayut as Prime Minister.
Mr Abhisit attended the meeting and then walked out to hold a press conference to announce his decision.
Thailand’s elections on 24 March were dogged by allegations of irregularities, fraud and accusations that the military had manipulated the results.
One day before the vote for Prime Minister the Future Forward MPs reported being offered up to 120 million baht (£3m) by Phalang Pracharat to switch sides and it took 45 days for the official results to be declared, which was unprecedented in Thailand.
Mr. Anawil Rattanasathaporn, an MP representing Pathum Thani province, told a news conference at the party’s head office today that he was twice approached by someone, whom he declined to identify, who initially offered him 25 million baht and, later, offered up to 60 million baht in exchange for his vote, but he rejected them all.
Bangkok MP Taophipob Limchitrakorn said he was first offered 30 million baht through someone he knew. Eventually, the offer was increased to 50 million baht, 70 million baht and, finally last week, to 120 million baht in exchange for his vote, but he turned down all the offers outright.
Khon Kaen MP Thitinan Saengnark also claimed he received offers, starting at 55 million baht and rising to 75 million baht recently, to vote for a candidate of another party, which he declined to name.
Party spokeswoman Ms. Pannikar Wanich also claimed that a party MP received death threats if they refused to accept the bribes.
However, she said that the party would not disclose the identities of the “go between” who made the offers because of the death threats against the MPs who were approached.
She said that the amount of the offers correspond with the law of supply and demand, adding however that there are no “cobras” among the party’s MPs.
The spokeswoman warned that any MP who votes for General Prayut will be expelled from the party.